Every month, Utne Reader previews a selection of current and upcoming independent film and documentary releases. This sampler was curated by editor Ben Sauder. 

October 2016 Film Sampler


Klown Forever

Review by Abby Olcese

Drafthouse Films describes their newest release, Klown Forever “as though Lars von Trier were directing an especially mortifying episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.” While it may not be quite that bleak, the rest of that description is pretty much right on the money. The film—a continuation of Danish TV comedy series Klown and a 2010 spinoff film of the same name—is filled with bad judgment, appalling behavior and anxiety-inducing comedy that alternately makes you want to laugh hysterically, or cover your eyes. It’s a painful movie, at times shockingly inappropriate. It’s also very, very funny.

Klown Forever reunites viewers with writers and stars Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam, five years after their exploits in the first Klown film. Frank is married, with one young daughter and a newborn son. Casper, his best friend, is still a hard-partying king of impropriety (in one early scene he’s caught bedding the family nanny at a christening party). The growing rift between the two men threatens to destroy their friendship when Casper unexpectedly moves to L.A., and a lonely Frank visits, hoping to convince his friend to return to Denmark. Misadventures, dick jokes and celebrity cameos ensue.

Both Casper and Frank exhibit different, but equally ridiculous, forms of arrested development. With his inflated ego and utter lack of responsibility, Casper actively seeks experiences where he can narrowly escape trouble, dumping the consequences on others. The bespectacled, weak-willed Frank makes an excellent straight man, as a new father who knows he should change his behavior, but can’t quite do it. He still isn’t ready (and may never be ready) to give up his best friend’s influence on his life—even if that influence is about as wholesome as nuclear waste.

But even through the ill-advised hookups, immaturity and foul humor, there’s still a poignancy aboutKlown Forever and Casper and Frank’s connection that rings true. One of the film’s running bits is that the pair are co-authoring on a book on friendship, but neither man bothers to read the other’s contribution until they’re living on different continents. Klown Forever is about that feeling—the feeling of growing apart from a close friend, and finally realizing the importance of that relationship just as it’s about to dissolve.

Make no mistake, Casper and Frank are not good people, and their lack of tact or taste—as well as their inability to keep it in their pants—is where Klown Forever derives all of its humor. But, for all their nastiness, there’s a sort of sweetness to the men’s relationship that redeems them. After all they’ve been through, and after all they’ve done with and to each other, each man is the only possible best friend the other could ever have. In their own relationship crossroads, Casper and Frank take the path we always knew they would, and that’s a great thing—even if their sticking together poses a massive hazard to everyone else around them.

Incarcerating US

Through dramatic first-hand accounts, expert testimony, and shocking statistics, Incarcerating US illustrates that the current criminal justice system is incompatible with a free society. The film explores the consequences of the "War on Drugs" and other policies that have eroded freedoms and civil liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The film asks fundamental questions about the prison system in America:

What is the purpose of prison?

Why did our prison population explode in the 1970s?

What can make our justice system more just? (Distributor synopsis)

Hot Type: 150 Years of The Nation

Hot Type: 150 Years of The Nation is a vivid, inside look at America's oldest continuously published weekly magazine. Shot over three years in intimate, cinema verite style, the film captures the day-to-day pressures and challenges of publishing the progressive magazine as it follows reporters out into the field, the editors who shape their work, and the editor-in chief who tries to keep all of the plates spinning. (Distributor synopsis)

Last Cab to Darwin

Rex is a cab driver who has never left the mining town of Broken Hill in his life. When he discovers he doesn't have long to live, he decides to drive through the heart of the country to Darwin, where he's heard he will be able to die on his own terms; but along the way he discovers that before you can end your life you've got to live it, and to live it you've got to learn to share it. (Distributor synopsis)

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